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Financial Infidelity

getoffmyproperty

Get yer filthy paws awf my moneys!

The other day I came across an article about “financial infidelity”. Wikipedia defines financial infidelity as “a term used to describe the secretive act of spending money, possessing credit and credit cards, holding secret accounts or stashes of money, borrowing money, or otherwise incurring debt unknown to one’s spouse, partner, or significant other. Adding to the monetary strain commonly associated with financial infidelity in a relationship is a subsequent loss of intimacy and trust in the relationship.”

Basically, according to the Internets, married people are cheating on each other with money.

Dude.

Within a week of our moving in together, Mike had added my name to his checking account and I’d closed mine out and deposited all of my funds into his account. Now, I wouldn’t recommend this to all couples, in some situations that could be a really stupid thing to do. But in our case it made sense. For one thing, I had excellent credit and a knack for data entry, while Mike made lots of money that he never took to the bank. He used to get all his bills in red envelopes, not because he couldn’t afford to pay them but because he never had money in the bank. Instead, all his money was scattered across the kitchen table, shoved into cracks in the walls to keep out drafts, tucked into books like so many bookmarks, and wadded up in the dryer lint catcher. It drove me crazy. So when we agreed to move in together, we agreed to a joint bank account so that I could manage our finances. And manage them I did! Every night when Mike came home from work he would put all his cash in a cigar box we kept next to the bed. Every morning I would deposit his cigar box cash at the bank. I paid all our bills, balanced the checkbook, and watched our budget.  By the time we married we had zero debt and a nice little nest egg. Then we moved to New York and blew it all. Then we paid down our debt again, built another nice little nest egg, and moved back to California.

The value of a man who, without complaint, hands over his paycheck every week, is not lost on me. I know how lucky I am to have a partner who is so careful of his spending, so sincere in his desire to help me build the future we want for ourselves. It’s a blessing to know that we have the same goals in mind and that we’re both doing the best we can to meet them. Which is why the thought of financial infidelity is so absolutely horrifying. Aside from death or actual infidelity, I can’t imagine many things more terrifying than discovering that my husband has secret credit card debt. Or secret gambling debt. Or secret anything.

I thought about this when I read the article, then I googled “financial infidelity” and found 809,000 more articles, and with each word I read I climbed higher and higher on my money-management pedestal. Patted myself on the back and told myself how superior we are because we would never lie to each other about money. We’re better than that. And then I remembered the parking ticket.

If I get a parking ticket and send the check off and don’t say anything to Mike about that $55 – is that financial infidelity? What if I go shopping and tell him I only spent $100, but I actually spent $350? Or like, we each have a budgeted personal allowance of $80 a month and Mike never spends that much, he hardly ever spends more than forty bucks, but I sometimes spend three times my allotted amount and I’ve never told him (until now.) I just let him think I stay within my budget because I don’t want him to get mad and it’s not like he ever looks at our budget sheets, because he totally trusts me to take care of it – so am I cheating on my spouse with money?

AM I A CURRENCY INFIDELITE?

What do you think? About all of this, I mean, not just whether or not I’m cheating on my husband’s bank account. How do you handle money with your partner? Not that that is any of my business, no siree. Oooh, touchy subject, this is. Money! Scary stuff, I know. But I’m curious. What do you think?

Frosty’s Got Her Groove Back (I think.)

Chillin

V-Dog says, “Just chill, man. Just chill.”

Today marks three months since we arrived in Los Angeles and three months of living with my parents and all our animals. I wrote a one-month check-in, but I skipped the two-month because it was a much less pleasant month. First of all, it rained nearly every day. Also, the honeymoon of being home had worn off and I was reminded of all of The Valley’s flaws and did you know that sometimes it rains in Los Angeles? Because I was sure there was no rain here but it has rained at least forty-five of the ninety days we’ve been home.

This last month has seen it’s own trials, don’t get me wrong. But I think I’m starting to get into the swing of it. We’re beginning to get into a bit of a routine, which is great, I am a huge fan of routines. We’ve been spending a lot of time with family and we’re looking forward to the holidays. Also, I’ve gotten over the weather, mostly. I went to New York at the end of October and realized that sixty-degree weather is not cold. Sixty-degrees is lovely, thank you. I will never again complain about sweater weather in November.

As far as work goes, it’s starting to be fun again. For a minute things were really intense, but I’m settling in, learning how to work with the other members of my team, finding my voice. Michael hates his job, loathes and despises it, but as soon as he gets his California EMT card he’ll be moving on, so he’s not letting it get to him. Instead he’s looking forward to school in January. He finally got all his transcripts sorted out and he’s been given a date to register for Spring semester. The admissions office had given him such a hard time about his classes – as if Bio 1 in New York City is somehow sub par to Bio 1 in Los Angeles – it made me crazy. When I found out he’d gotten everything transferred over, it was all I could do not to jump up and down and squeal like a child. I am absolutely over the moon.

So things have been looking up. The second month home I felt like moving had been a mistake, something we rushed into, dear god, what did we do to our life? But this month feels good. Like we’re getting our groove back.

It occurred to me today that all of life is like this. That no matter what, there are good days and bad days, sometimes you’re in a groove and sometimes you’re in a ditch. Even when we aren’t making big life changes, things are always changing, and just because we find our way one day doesn’t mean we won’t get lost the next. I think that what I need to focus on is building a life that’s congruent with my goals. Even when things aren’t going the way I plan, if I’m at least moving towards something I want, I feel happy.

What are my goals, you ask? I’d be happy to tell you! In the next six months I’d like to spend more time with friends. I’d like to spend more time writing. I want to visit Florida with Michael so we can spend time with his mother. I want go on weekly dates with my wonderful husband. I want to be living in a little two-bedroom home that we love, that we could be happy in for at least five years. I want health insurance. And I want to be having fun and feeling successful in my career.

Those are pretty reasonable goals, right? Totally manageable. If things change between now and then, if my goals change, it doesn’t matter. After all, people make plans and God laughs at plans. And then people cry and get depressed. Then they make new plans and feel hopeful and there we have the circle of life.

Preparedness

babydoll

We found a house in our price-range. I took this photo inside of it.
What the picture doesn’t convey is the overwhelming scent of decay,
the mushrooms growing in the carpet, and the fallen-in roof
.

Had a super awkward moment at the checkout stand today. I’m buying four bottles of wine and a bottle of pre-natal vitamins. How weird is that? Right? What kind of person buys pre-natal vitamins and booze? I might as well be buying a bottle of Evian and case of laxatives.

“They’re not for me,” I volunteered when I got to the register.

“Pardon?”

“They’re not for me. The vitamins. Just the wine is for me.”

The check-out man stared at me, blinked.

“I’m not, like, a pregnant drunk or anything. Drinking and pregnant, bad idea. I’m not pregnant.”

A long silence passed. I chewed my lip. The lady behind me coughed. The checker looked at the bottle of vitamins in his hand and recognition lit his face. “Oh! Yeah. I guess I didn’t look at the vitamins. I thought, what’s this lady talking about?”

“Right, pre-natal vitamins, ha! My bad.”

Could I be more awkward? Like the checker even cares. Like anyone even reads what’s on the labels of someone else’s groceries. And why do I care? They’re not for me, or they are for me but I’m not pregnant, not even trying to get pregnant, just … hopeful.

(This is where I whine about the problems in my first world life.)

Before we left New York we decided that next year was going to be THE year to try for a baby. Everything was going our way. Mike was almost done with school, we had great jobs, we were putting money in the bank every day. Obviously it would be easy to move across the country and buy a house and get pregnant by next year. Then we moved across the country and it turns out we totally can’t afford a house next year and Mike’s new school is giving him all this drama about transferring his credits and I’m afraid we were a little ambitious when we decided next year was THE year. If we manage to climb out of this hole we dug ourselves into, it will be largely because of the support we’ve gotten from my parents these last few months.

But I was just so damn excited and now I’m so damn disappointed. The thought that this dream was maybe that close to my reach made me so indescribably happy. And then I think about the women who try and try and it doesn’t happen and I’m terrified that that will be me. That I’ll put it off and put it off and then when we finally try it just won’t happen. And then what will I do?

I’ll live, I guess. I’ll figure it out. I’ll have Mike and we’ll be fine, whatever happens happens, we move on, I know. It would be heartbreaking but we would survive. Besides, it could all work out perfectly, so it’s silly to be worrying about it now. So I’m trying to stay positive. We are healthy, we are loved, and we are getting through this slightly uncomfortable transitionary period. And I’m taking some stupid unfortunately-named vitamins. Just in case. Is that so bad?

In the mean time, I will enjoy a glass of wine every evening, thank you very much.

Dark and Twisty

Oh man, you guys. I am in a rough spot. There is a lot of anxiety happening all up in my shiz. Lots of teeth grinding and fingernails raking and brows furrowing. My face hurts from all the frowning I’ve been doing in the last three days. I have got to lighten up. I want to, I really do, I am trying to stay positive, but I am seriously bumming out.

What do you do when you get into this kind of head space? Like, when you just. feel. lonesome. And a little bit worthless. And like kind of a failure.

I know it’s silly, I really do. There are people in the world who really are alone, and who are sick and starving and cold. And I’m fine. I’m living in suburbia and I have a fantastic job and a wonderful family, I know. I am blessed. But tonight I feel sad and lonely and scared and confused. And I just need a friend. Someone to listen while I cry and then say something stupid so I’ll laugh.

I hate it when Mike works nights. I hate that it rained and was dreary all day. I hate that I’m doing a job I don’t know how to do. I hate that Valentine had to have six teeth pulled out of her head.

Fine, there it is. My big shameful secret. One of many. We never had Valentine’s teeth cleaned, not the whole time we were in New York, and she started spitting out teeth a couple of months ago, and as a result of our negligence that poor little dog has no front teeth.

How is she supposed to be ferocious with no front teeth?

It’s shameful, it really is. It’s shameful that I didn’t take better care of her and it’s shameful that I just spent a months worth of savings on a doggy dental visit. And its shameful that I’m upset about the amount of money I spent. It’s all just terribly shameful.

And also the weather and Mike working nights and not knowing how to do my job. I want to know how to do it, I really do. I would absolutely love to know how to do my job, to be good at it. That’s what’s killing me. The feeling like I’m a giant stupid idiot who can’t do anything right. A giant stupid incapable idiot who can’t do anything right and doesn’t take care of her dogs.

And it’s pouring rain and gray and cold and I miss Mike. I haven’t seen him, except in passing, since Sunday. I hate having opposite schedules. I wish we could just run away together and disappear on a sunny beach somewhere on an island in the middle of the ocean. Somewhere where the sun shines year-round and the weather never drops below eighty except at night when the air is cool and crisp. Somewhere where we wouldn’t have any obligations except to relax in the sun while unicorns dance under rainbows at the edge of the sea and Valentine chases them with a mouth full of healthy teeth.

I keep telling myself that the dog will be ok with six less teeth, that I’ll learn how to do the things I’m being taught, that Mike and I will realign our schedules so we have more time together. That this is all temporary. And it helps to get it off my chest, out into the open. I feel a little bit better now. Lighter. A little bit hopeful. So thank you. Seriously. Thank you.

sunlight

The World Keeps Spinning

Shadows

My heart has been so heavy the last couple of days. Mike started working nights again, which is awful. But it’s particularly awful because he’s working a job that brings him absolutely zero satisfaction, so he’s not even enjoying himself. At least if he were doing something he enjoyed, like EMT work, or a property management gig, or if he was gone all night because he was taking classes or something, at least I would know he was getting something out of it. But instead I know he’s on his feet all night, miserable, the hours dragging by like years, and so it’s hard to sit through my own personal loneliness with a brave face.

Then there’s the weather. You guys, seriously. The weather has been cold and gray for days and days. It has rained three times this week. Are you honestly telling me that we moved back from New York for this horrible, gray, dreary weather? Seriously? Because I could have stayed in New York for this. And then at least I’d be in New York.

I don’t mean that. I really do love the Valley. But this weather is seriously bumming me out.

Next is my job. It’s super frustrating right now. I’m having to learn a whole new set of skills, and what it feels like is that I’m learning a new language, and I’m not going to lie, it’s a little scary. I’m learning how to do things I never thought I’d have to learn and on the one hand, that’s the entire reason I took the job. Because I knew it would challenge me in ways I’ve never been challenged, and that was exactly what I wanted. And yet.

I think the problem here is that I don’t handle change very well. Or maybe I handle change just like everyone else does, and maybe everyone else feels super overwhelmed by change. I don’t know. Can you answer that for me? Because all of these little life changes are starting to pile up and feel a little crushing, now that the honeymoon has worn off, and I’m freaking the eff out.

Deep. Breath.

Another. Deep. Breath.

And yet. We chose this. We wanted this. Mike and I both. We stopped going out and eating at restaurants so we could save up enough money for this. We talked about it and planned it out and when we found out it was all real, we were so happy we cried.

And there have been days since we moved when all we can do is grin at each other and knock fists and bro-hug, we’re that pleased with ourselves. There have been happy reunions and little victories and days we both felt our lives were too good to be real. So I’m not trying to say that we made the wrong choice, or that I was starting to regret our decision, or anything like that. It’s just that it’s life, you know? It’s complicated and messy and boring and then it’s fantastic and perfect and full of tiny bursts of light like shooting stars that make all the rest of it worthwhile. I guess the thing to do is try and find the peace within it all. The zen. So that the crappy stuff doesn’t matter so much and the happy stuff is the thing you notice the most.

Budgets for Lovers

This weekend, for the first time in weeks, Mike and I found ourselves with a free afternoon. We used to have regularly scheduled budgeting sessions, much like our regularly scheduled dates, but since we moved across the country for the second time in four years, all that has fallen by the wayside. So how did we spend our free afternoon? We sat down with coffee and cookies and we drew up a budget.

I don’t know if you’re big on budgeting your expenses, but we definitely are. It’s a habit we got into when we wrote our pre-nup, and we’ve found that whenever we slip out of it, life starts to get really stressful. Money can be frustrating enough, but when you’re in the dark about how much is coming in and how much you’re spending and whether or not you can make the bills next week, it’s hard to focus on much else. Alternatively, when we’re staying on top of our finances, everything else seems to fall beautifully into place.

The first two years in New York we didn’t have a budget. Sure, one had worked before, but I didn’t need that crutch anymore! I could just keep track of our finances in my head! Why waste time writing a budget? Budgets are for sissies! Those were the years. The years of expensive restaurants, shopping sprees, and crushing guilt. The years we lived off frozen soybeans and microwave popcorn because we’d spent that week’s grocery money at a bar. The years our debt stacked higher no matter how much we paid on the balance each month. The wilted salad years.

When we were both laid off in 2008, I discovered Crazy Aunt Purl’s Budget Worksheet. It was serendipitous, if you ask me. We were in dire straights and one day, on a break from searching the Craigslist job ads, I got curious and clicked a link and there it was, in all its automatic built-in mathematic glory. I plugged our numbers into the appropriate cells and discovered that we were spending waaaaaaay more than we were earning, and had been for a long, long time. Which explained the credit card situation.

That was when we started getting hot and heavy with our finances. In 2009 we made less than half of what we’d made the year before, but because we were living by our budget, we felt like we had more income than we’d had in ages. Our budget included money for dates and personal spending, and when we stuck to it we had everything we wanted and more. That budget enabled us to get out from under our debt and save enough money to move home.

Then we moved and stopped paying attention to our finances all over again, so yesterday was a real eye-opener. But I’m glad we did it. It’s a huge weight off my shoulders, even if the news isn’t what I hoped it would be, to know what’s going out and what’s coming in, instead of ignoring the bankbook and crossing my fingers. And I swear, budgeting goes hand-in-hand with romance because when we’re not worrying about money we can do other things that are a lot more fun.

Whether you’re married or single, knowing exactly where your money goes every month can help you redirect your funds so you can live a life that’s congruent with your goals and dreams. At least I think so. And because I think you’ll dig it too, I’ve attached my version of Aunt Purl’s Budget Worksheet. It’s basically exactly the same as hers, except I added rows for things like Date Night and Savings and renamed it Budgets for Lovers. Click it! It’s downloadable!

Budgets for Lovers

If you’d rather download her Personal Budget Sheet, click here, then scroll down past Archives and past Categories, until you get to Knitting Recipes. You’ll find it there.

If you’ve downloaded Budgets for Lovers, you might be wondering where you’re supposed to come up with the numbers for the cells. That’s what this baby is for:

Weekly Budget Worksheet for Lovers

I drew that one up myself, so it’s not nearly as fancy and automatically mathey as Aunt Purl’s, but it does its job. At the end of every week I sit down with my checkbook and all the receipts from Mike’s and my wallet, and I plug in everything we spent and what it was spent on. Then at the end of the month I plug the totals from my weekly sheet into Budgets for Lovers and voila! An eye-opening glimpse into the real-life mysteries of an American couple’s spending habits.

How do you take care of your finances? Is it something you pay close attention to? Do you make lists and notations and use a calculator? Or do you fly by the seat of your pants and let things work out as they will? What helps you feel like your finances are under control?

Weather Check

Yesterday marked one-month since we arrived in Los Angeles and started living with my parents. One month with all of our belongings in boxes in their garage. One month of shared dinners and shared errands and shared Sundays. One month of little dogs with muddy feet on white linen slacks, one month of cats leaping from dark bookcase corners.

My parents are incredibly gracious. They even seem to enjoy having us here, and thank goodness, because being able to land here, with them, to have a home base while we gather ourselves together and get ready to move on to the next phase in our life has been invaluable. And wonderful.

Friends keep asking how the apartment hunt is going, but we haven’t even started looking. For one thing, I’ve been too busy at work to do anything else, and as long as Mike is still looking for an apartment manager job, why should we sign a lease? In the meantime we’re enjoying the shared dinners and shared errands and shared Sundays. Mike’s been wonderful about chipping in with chores and cooking, and I’m trying too. The dogs are enjoying the backyard and the cats are taking full advantage of sharing a room with us. They spend their nights tracing our faces with their whiskers, leaping back and forth from our bellies to our pillows and back again.

I’m sure it’s not easy for my parents to share their home with another family, especially one that consists of so many animals. But every time I ask them if we’re driving them crazy yet, they just laugh and insist that Mike’s cooking is worth it. And honestly? I’m a little surprised at how easy it’s been for Mike and me to adjust to sharing our life with another family. Granted the other family is our family too, but I was a little worried that we wouldn’t have enough privacy, or we’d impede on their privacy, or Theo would pee all over the garden furniture and drive my mother nuts, but so far it’s been fine.

Mike and I started running in the mornings, and since he started a part-time job our run has become our one chance to touch base during the day. He’s working nights, I’m working days, so it’s morning runs or nuthin’. As close as we are, it’s become really important for us to have the opportunity, every day, to clue each other in as to how we’re feeling, what’s going on, and where our heads are at. I’ve found that when we miss that hour alone together too many days in a row, I end up feeling disconnected, insecure, and uneasy. Then when we  run we get awkward. We trot side by side, talking small about the weather, our plans for the day. But by the end, sweaty and out of breath, we’re excited and talking about our future, the fixer-upper we hope to buy, the trip to Nepal, the degree Mike will earn, the family we hope to begin.

Do a “weather” check during the day Call your partner at home or at work to see how his or her day is going. This is a great way to adjust expectations so that you’re more in sync when you connect after work. For instance, if your partner is having an awful day, it might be unreasonable to expect him or her to be enthusiastic about something good that happened to you. — From 10 Tips for Happy Couples, by Dr. Mark Goulston.

Mike’s working in a restaurant, so calling him at work is out of the question. And I really don’t feel comfortable taking personal calls while I’m working, because they distract me too much. But the idea is what’s important, and for us, the hour of running is what is keeping us in tune. So what about you? What do you do to stay connected to your partner? Do you have a weekly date night? Do you share a daily meal? How do you manage sharing a life with opposite schedules?

A Willing Man

twit picTweeted this photo a month ago, not fifteen minutes after I’d finished vacuuming. Then I cried.

In an average week I spend anywhere from ten to eighteen hours taking care of the hearth and home.  By that I mean I spend between ten and eighteen hours vacuuming, washing dishes, doing laundry, paying bills, walking the dogs, emptying the litter box, taking out the trash, et cetera, in addition to the forty plus hours I work at my jobs, in addition to the work Michael does around the house, and I’ll tell you something, that man more than pulls his weight around here.

Recently I’ve been seeing a lot of headlines about how marriages where the husband helps out around the house are happier and less likely to end in divorce than marriages where the wife shoulders most of the household chores.  I think this is an incredibly interesting topic because I’ve had a personal theory about this for years, a theory something along the lines of how I would die of apoplexy if I ever lived with another man who was incapable of taking care of himself.

No, Kevin, I’m not writing about you, I know you think this post is about you, don’t you? Don’t you?

You guys, I once lived with my friend Kevin and the fact that we’re still friends is kind of a miracle because I was the worst roommate in the entire world.  I did things to that poor guy that I can’t even type here, but to give you an idea of what a really terrible, awful roommate I was, I will tell you that whenever I knew he was bringing a girl home, I would poop in his toilet and not flush.

Hello, future potential employers!

Anyway, I did that horrible thing because I was… I was… I’m drawing a blank.  He got me back though.  He once hid all of my oranges.

Where was I?  I was a terrible roommate, but at least Kevin could take care of himself.  Sure, he left his groceries on the porch overnight, more than once, and I’d find his shoes in my bathroom and his underpants on the TV, but he worked hard and he was patient and kind and he helped with the chores.  And we’re still friends.

I’ve lived with other men over the years, I’m not talking about family members, I’m talking about roommates and what not, and the ones that didn’t help with chores?  They are no longer a part of my life, not even a little bit.  So my theory evolved from my inability to maintain relationships with men who refused to treat me as an equal.  Because that’s what it comes down to folks.  If a physically able man who hasn’t hired full time help won’t chip in with the chores, he’s either a completely dependent child or he thinks he’s too good to stoop to a woman’s level and take care of the home.  Am I being a little brash?  Probably, but I’ve watched too many women I love sacrifice themselves for a guy who doesn’t give back and I’ve been the girl who gives everything and finds herself alone and empty hearted.

When I mentioned the headlines about husband’s who help with housework to Mike he looked at me thoughtfully and said, “Of course.  A husband who helps with chores is the kind of man who helps.  He’s considerate, he’s thoughtful, he’s kind.  Of course his marriage is happier and less likely to end in divorce.”  He spoke the words on the tip of my tongue.

On our favorite Thai place in Thai Town, Hollywood

Him: If I can’t see the little old Thai ladies cooking in the kitchen, we’re leaving.

Me: Ok.

Him: And the only reason I won’t hate you for dragging me away from them, all the way to New York where all the Thai food is heinously Americanized, is because they’d started the renovations before we moved.

Me: Wait … what?

Him: I’m just saying, it’s grounds for retroactive resentment.

A Serious Weekend

On our way to wonder at William Kentridge.

*love in an elevator*

*how to commute*

*how to commute*

Ladies Home Journal

*a perfect table in a perfect dining room for a perfect party*

birdling

*from the devil's gaping maw*

washing windows

*then the one on the left waved at me and I died from embarrassment*

*all photos courtesy of my Verizon Wireless Satan Owns My Soul BlackBerry